There’s no shortage of left-wing groups pushing Millennials to run for public office, but only a handful provide a veritable boot camp for would-be activists. One of them, the New Leaders Council (NLC), claims chapters in 28 states and some 7,000 alumni, many of whom are elected representatives.
The D.C.-based national organization boasts a number of Democratic honorary co-chairs primarily from blue states, including Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and presidential candidate Julian Castro. The group’s board of directors brims with Democratic Party operatives and staffers, lobbyists, and activists from EMILY’s List and various labor unions.
But it’s the group’s network of socialist alumni which ought to raise eyebrows.
There’s Nomiki Konst, a self-identified “democratic socialist” and TV pundit for the Young Turks, “casting herself as the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the New York public advocate’s race,” reports Politico. According to her profile on HuffPost, Konst is a member of the New Leaders Council.
Then there’s Thomas Walker, an “anti-war movement” activist, “living wage” advocate, and press secretary for the union-backed United Campus Workers in Tennessee. Walker is a self-proclaimed “revolutionary and a socialist.” (His page has since been deleted from NLC’s website, but is available here.)
In 2018, Berkeley, California, city council candidate and NLC Oakland member Igor Tregub proudly announced his socialist fides in an interview with the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
A 2019 alumnus, Angela DeFilippo, is a treasurer for the Democratic Socialists of America’s (DSA) North Texas chapter. Another 2019 alumnus, Sean Parker, co-founded a Tennessee chapter of DSA. Still another alumnus, Ian Lee, is a “proud member” of the DSA in Sacramento, California.
Another NLC alumnus is Michael Lino Gonzales, a Texas community organizer who has been “heavily involved” in the DSA since 2017—particularly the DSA’s “Socialist Feminist” working group.
Yet another NLC alumnus, Luke Elzinga, says he enjoys “socialist politics” in his free time. A 2018 NLC fellow, Jeffrey Lichtenstein, claims that firsthand experience of “the chaos of the market and the psychopathy of ruling people” in 2008, “he embraced a vision of socialism, quit his finance job, and became a committed unionist and political organizer.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to call NLC itself socialist because of the members listed above; after all, it can hardly be blamed for the activities of its alumni. Instead, the organization has its own run-ins with socialism.
In August 2011, the group’s chapter in San Diego, California, co-sponsored a Community and Labor Economic Summit alongside far-left groups including the DSA and local branch of the International Socialist Organization. Breakout sessions included such topics as universal healthcare, “who isn’t paying their fair share” in taxes, the supposed “war on Social Security,” and “privatization: selling off public resources for private greed.”
NLC held a happy hour in Washington, D.C., in 2016 whose headline was “We Need Bernie!” The event was hosted by the DSA.
Socialist Movement Technologies (SMT), a similar nonprofit that offers organizing training to radical leftists, credits NLC with “engag[ing] with SMT trainings.” And the far-left group Indivisible—which was “brought together to resist the Trump agenda”—lists NLC (and DSA) as groups in “solidarity.”
And while many of NLC’s co-chairs may hold relatively mainstream opinions for Democrats (at least in 2019), at least one of its former staffers—radio talk show host and FOX News contributor Richard Fowler—is further left.
In January 2018, Fowler told FOX News that “I think there’s some policies that you could see from socialism that would work here in America.” Fowler was a senior media fellow for NLC during the 2016 presidential election, when he lashed out at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as a “far-right conservative” promoting a “gay hating” agenda. In 2017, he bizarrely accused President Trump of anti-gay “hate and bigotry,” perhaps forgetting that just two years before Trump was one of the only Republican presidential candidates not opposed to same-sex marriage, telling CNN “you have to go with it . . . that is the law of the land.”
Fowler also falsely painted Republican candidate Roy Moore as “guilty for saying comments like LGBTQ people should be put to death” following Moore’s defeat in December 2017 (there is no evidence Moore ever made such a statement).
Perhaps there’s little wonder why NLC flirts with radicalism. After all, the group has received $20,000 from the Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation (Jonathan is the son of billionaire funder George Soros)—a fact its website used to detail in February 2017. (The junior Soros is apparently no longer listed among its many supporters.)
Other donors to NLC include left-wing standbys: the Planned Parenthood Federation of American and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Knight Foundation, the J.B. Pritzker Foundation, the liberal fundraising platform ActBlue, and the Nancy Pelosi for Congress PAC.
On the whole, you have to credit the New Leaders Council with a broad alumni network—socialist or not. For a positive vision of America’s future, though, you’ll have to look elsewhere.